Friday Finds #168

Clean up what? Your contacts!

This morning I tackled one of those tasks that for years I’ve known needed to be done but it was never urgent nor really important.

Yeah, you know the kind of task I’m talking about. Stephen Covey would say that type of task should be forgotten because it’s not important or urgent, but it got out of control so it finally became important.

I cleaned up my contacts!

Google is my thing. I love Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. I started using Google Contacts a little a few years ago, mostly to create a studio email list but was hesitant to take the time to mess moving entirely to it which would include merging iCloud contacts, yadda, yadda, yadda. I just didn’t want to think about it even though I was probably making it harder in my mind than it was.

The clean-up included:

  1. Importing all my iCloud contacts into Google Contacts.
  2. Deleting those contacts out of iCloud and making sure I had “contacts” turned off in my iCloud and turned on through my Google account on my phone.
  3. Letting Google Contacts help me go through the automated process of merging any duplicate contacts.
  4. Deleting old contacts such as students from 12 years ago when I taught in another location, people who have passed away, and even some contacts I couldn’t even remember who they were…Eek!

There were 1,150 contacts when I started and 450 when I finished. That’s a 60% reduction! Wow. I feel lighter.



Our oven will be baking Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage and Peppers (Sheela Prakash | The Kitchn) for dinner tonight. It sounds like a quick, easy, and tasty meal. Fingers crossed!



If you live within a couple of hour drive of Indianapolis, Irina Gorin is giving a free workshop on March 17th, 2020 from 10am-2:30 pm with a short lunch break (bring it yourself) at Piano Solutions.



Whatever side you lean toward, I found this article interesting: Why Can’t Moderates Win the White House? (Ibram X. Kendi | The Atlantic)



Gif or Jif? They’re finally helping us out! Jiff Peanut Butter Teamed Up with Giphy to FINALLY Settle How You Pronounce GIF (Maybe?) (Isadora Baum | The Kitchn)



This is a fun post idea! 5 Changes for a More Eco-Friendly Teaching Studio (Nicola Cantan | Colourful Keys)



Two VERY short and I mean VERY short but pithy posts from Seth Godin.

Just Getting Through the Day

Wasting It



Cut off the tops of your rubber kitchen gloves before throwing them away and use them for jar openers! It works! (Ashley Abramson | The Kitchn)



Of Mice and Magic: In Praise of Animal Stories (Maria Bonvissuto | The Rabbit Room)



High School Puts on “Adulting Day” For Students, Teaches Them How to Pay Bills, Change Tires, Cook (Rob Fox | Rare)


Friday Finds #167

Spring is in the air, or not?

It’s kind of weird how being sick for two days can make you feel crazy-alive when you do feel better.

Today it may only be 25 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside, but I feel like Spring is in the air. My cold is subsiding, the annoying dry cough is letting up, my hoarse voice is slowly coming back, and I decided to wear flip-flops around the house today.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m in the midst of planning and finalizing an Alaska vacation for July (our first big vacation in six years) or because I’m planning a short Spring-break getaway to Asheville, North Carolina and Biltmore Estates (sorry MTNA Chicago, I’ll miss you this year!), or maybe I just got enough sleep last night (ha!), I don’t know!

Today I feel alive and awake and I hope that I can transfer some of that to you. It’s the end of the week and sometimes that brings fatigue and sometimes it brings energy. May this week’s list and these words spark a spring in your step, if even for a moment.



Learning how to preserve joy in the same way we preserve food. The Art of Preserving (Gina Sutphin | The Rabbit Room)



The first day of spring may be exactly a month away, but the stores are already full of bright spring things.

Rev yourself up…spring cleaning is just around the corner! The Hidden Benefits of Spring Cleaning [Video] (Laura Calder | The Inviting Life)



A new video resource for quality recordings of duet piano repertoire! (Spring Seals | 4D Piano Teaching)



These storage bags are wonderful (Amazon). I bought them with the intent to store square outdoor furniture cushions and they fit perfectly. They would be great storage for lots of other things as well!



7 Pieces of Financial Advice That Changed My Life Forever [Video] (Joshua Becker | Becoming Minimalist)



We’re about 3/4 of the way through the school year. In the next month or so we may start experiencing some sluggishness not only in our students but in ourselves as well. As the end of the school year becomes busy, we can become tired and perhaps more easily frustrated.

Remembering how difficult it really is to play one’s instrument might be a pretty great empathy hack when we’re struggling with patience.

A Simple Technique That Could Help Boost Your Effectiveness With a Struggling Student (Noa Kageyama | The Bulletproof Musician)



What’s been in my Amazon cart?

First, a little something to brighten up my studio.

Second, a little something to spice up the classics. They sound really fun!



The Sebastian Sessions

The Chopin Sessions

The Beethoven Sessions

The Amadeus Anthems



Why Smartphones are Terrible for a Little Bit of Zoning Out (Ed Cyzewski)



Yes, yes, and yes!!! 10  Reasons Why Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today (Amy Morin | Psychology Today)



There are just a few more weeks to live the winter-soup life. Add this to your meal plan for this week:

Favorite chili: The Best, Easy Slow Cooker Chili (The Kitchn)

Favorite soups with kale:
Turkey, Kale and Brown Rice Soup (Giada at Home)
5-Ingredient Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup (The Kitchn)
Whole 30 Zuppa Toscana – Dairy-Free Potato Soup (Farmstead Chic)

Favorite chicken soup: The Best Soup You’ll Ever Eat (Ambitious Kitchen)

Another good soup: Pork and Napa Cabbage Soup (Nom Nom Paleo)



P.S. By the end of writing this post, my toes have been in flip-flops for 4 hours this morning and they now remember that it is still winter. Grr. Four more weeks.

See you next week! With warm feet this time…



The Practice Cake Assignment Sheet

Have you ever heard of “The Practice Cake?”

The analogy was first brought to my attention by Dr. Lori Rhoden, who I studied with in the graduate piano pedagogy program at Ball State.

Recently, I saw an article on The Practice Cake and it made me remember that I have an assignment sheet that is based on this idea!

It’s a simple idea really, but a great visual for how to teach students to build their practice.

1) Rhythm and notes/fingering

2) Articulation

3) Dynamics and tempo

4) Pedal

The image is flip-flopped, however, like a layer cake! The foundation is the rhythm/notes/fingering the top of the cake is the pedal. You can’t get to the top unless you have the foundation!

One of the assignment sheets I created in my early “assignment-sheet-creating” days included a small image as such.

However, after a reader asked if I could tweak it because it looked like *that* emoji, yeah, you know, the poop emoji, I decided to simply switch the analogy to a stairstep. (I was working from Microsoft Word, and didn’t know about things like Canva at the time, OK? 🙂 LOL)

It doesn’t really matter the graphic, right? The idea is the same.

If you like the idea of having an image as such on your student’s assignment sheet each week, check out Assignment Sheet #15: Practice Steps 2 on Assignment Sheet Central or just download it right here!


Interested in reading a little more on this idea?

Check out this article by Chrissy Ricker on  The Practice Cake: A “sweet” approach to teaching beginners how to practice


Top Tools and Resources

Four Tools I Can’t Live Without

Being known as an organized person means I frequently get asked what some of my favorite tools and resources are I use on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, if you’ve been around Piano Pantry long enough, you know my #1 is by far Evernote.

When we talk about “tools” though, there is a wide gamut we use daily whether it’s for organizing music, social media, our schedule, resources, etc.

Today I want to highlight four digital tools that help me stay organized that I in 2020 I would now find it very hard to live without.

P.S. All of these along with a whole lot more of my favs are listed on a permanent page here on Piano Pantry.

Under the Menu select Resources > Recommended Resources


Evernote. The easiest way to describe Evernote is that it’s a digital filing cabinet where you can save multiple types of content formats in one location: documents, URL links, clips from YouTube, selections from internet pages, PDF files, and more. Highly useful for both our teaching and personal lives!

Check out all my Evernote tutorials on Piano Pantry.


Feedly. Using an RSS Reader is, in my opinion, the only way to properly manage content in today’s world. An RSS Reader is like a personalized digital newspaper. You tell it the website you want to follow and it will stream all the newsfeeds into one location so you can keep up on new content in one place.

Read more about how I use Feedly in this post: Managing Internet Content the Easy Way


Grammarly. My English teacher and writing sidekick. With Grammarly Premium, you not only get the basic critical grammar and spell-check errors, but you also get instant feedback on over 400 advanced grammar rules. Microsoft Word spell-check can’t even touch the capability of this program.

Read more on why I love Grammarly in this post: Grammarly – Spell Check on Steroids


LastPass. In this day and age, I couldn’t manage all my accounts and passwords properly without Last Pass. Your life will be made easier (and more secure).

Since I haven’t written a full post about LastPass, I’ll just direct you to an excellent one on Leila Viss’s site: Keeping Safe with Password Safety and Online Security.


P.S. All of these along with a whole lot more of my favs are listed on a permanent page here on Piano Pantry.

Under the Menu select Resources > Recommended Resources


What’re your top four resources you couldn’t live without?


Friday Finds #166

Strawberries in February

Has it hit you yet?

Sickness, that is.

It hit me this week. For two days all I did was sleep.

Luckily this week was a group class week rather than a regular lesson schedule week – which always seems easier to make up. My policy is that if I cancel, I will do my best to make-up but there are no guarantees and I can cancel one lesson during the year without making it up.

Luckily we’re talking head-cold here, not the flu so my best friend has been DayQuil and Kleenex.

Cool Touch and Vick’s are my fav.

Catch more of my cold-care and studio germ-busting tips here.

I’ve been so caught up in being sick that I practically forgot today is Valentine’s day, happy Valentine’s my friends!



Meet the $50 Strawberries That NYC’s High-End Chefs Are Fawning Over

The “Omakase berry,” grown at an indoor farm in Jersey, is popping up at Michelin-starred restaurants like Sushi Ginza Onodera and Atomix (Eater New York)



Strawberries and Eels (Hugh Sung | Pianist. Foodie. Techie.)



Three of my favorite strawberry recipes:

Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream (Ellie Krieger | Food Network)

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar (Ina Garten | Food Network)

Almond Butter Toast with Strawberries



Kitchn writer Elizabeth Licata wrote an article on how she ate like a member of the royal family for a week. One of the items mentioned was the Queen’s favorite strawberry jam.

You can get it on Amazon so OF COURSE, I had to try it, right? Totally yum, but I wouldn’t pay $12 on a regular basis for a jar of jam.

My nephews were here one night so we had breakfast for dinner including toast with the Queen’s jam. Fun! 🙂



My Favorite Books on Piano Teaching (Lauren Lewandowski | Piano with Lauren)

Books for Piano Teachers: Including My Top 3 Recommendations (Amy Chaplin | Piano Pantry)



How to Set Up and Use Playlists for Students on YouTube (Tim Topham |



This time in Piano Pantry history

1 year ago – Free Printable: My Hands Watch Them Grow
3 years ago – The Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Part 1 – Studio Interdependence



Prepare for Spring: Gardening could be the hobby that helps you live to 100



6 Beautiful Homes on the National Register (The Week)



Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. Eat something yummy tonight – like strawberries! 🙂

Friday Finds #165

From Me to You

From my screen to yours, from my heart to yours, from my mind to yours. May you find something in this week’s list that inspires your mind, invites better living, and encourages your personal and teaching life.



“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines.”

-Henry David Thoreau



Oh, these are awesome. Printable Valentines for Food Lovers (Williams Sonoma).



Change up your normal listening routine for the next week with this Valentine’s Playlist (Amy Chaplin | Spotify)



There are two sources of news I’ve been enjoying using lately. (I shared the first one a couple of weeks ago: The Week: 5 things you need to know now.)

The second is The Morning Briefing email newsletters from The New York Times.



Congratulations to Sheryl Welles on launching her music resources site: Birds of a Feather!



Forward-thinking at it’s best:  Vienna Will Reward People Who Forego Cars By Giving Them Free Concert Tickets



I’ve been on the search for a better way of holding cookbooks. My large books were the issue.

This one, recommended by ATK, was perfect not only because it holds heavy cookbooks, but it has a protective cover! I’ve been using it a couple of months now and couldn’t be happier!

Deluxe Original Cookbook Holder on Amazon for $37.


Take a “slow food day” while it’s still winter.



Whole-Grain Banana Bread. (King Arthur Flour)

Softbatch Cookie Butter Brown Sugar Cookies (Averie Sunshine | Avery Cooks)



This time in Piano Pantry history:

1 Year Ago – A Visual Guide for Formula Pattern Scales
2 Years Ago – Friday Finds: Lots of Good Stuff




Friday Finds #164

Christmas and Valentines

Here we are, three weeks already into the new year.

Tomorrow I have a two-hour drive to Indianapolis for our state’s tri-annual board meeting at Butler University (my first one as Immediate Past President! wahoo!).

Are you part of a professional organization? If not, I can tell you that one of the things I love the most is simply the colleagues that develop into friends. Not only do you get opportunities for your own enrichment and student events, but you get groupies with it! 🙂

It’s never too late to join!

Are you ready for some goodies to end your week?



We’re halfway to Valentine’s Day. Holiday weeks are always a good chance to take a break from your regular lesson time routine and either hold group classes or at least play some games or do different activities in your private lessons. Lauren just published a Valentine’s activity round-up for us! (Lauren Lewandowski | Piano with Lauren)



Here’s a Valentine’s Playlist I created on Spotify to enjoy for the next few weeks. (Amy Chaplin | Spotify)



Two years ago: Football and Valentine’s (Amy Chaplin | Piano Pantry)

Don’t miss the sweet photo at the end of the post my husband (a former photographer) did for me in our early years.



We may be halfway to valentine’s but Christmas is always in our hearts, right?

Photos: Christmas Around the World (Alan Taylor | The Atlantic) 30 pictures of holiday festivities, featuring images of both secular and holy celebrations from China, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, England, India, Japan, the U.S., and many other places.

2019 Christmas Gifts for Students (Joy Morin | Color In My Piano)

It may be January, but clip it to Evernote and tag it “Christmas”. Your November self will thank you.



My new Christmas cardholder. It was out of stock and didn’t arrive until early January so needless to say, I’m now displaying all my Christmas cards

Available on Amazon or Hayneedle.

Personal pictures in Friday Finds? Why not?! 🙂



The Journey of Becoming a Business-Loving Independent Music Educator (Sara Campbell | Saras Music Studio)



One of our profession’s big techie gurus, Hugh Sung, shared a fun post showing the progression of his website since the ’90s. (Hugh Sung)



Art at it’s most raw, human state. Love it. How 17 Outsize Portraits Rattled a Small Southern Town. (Audra D.S. Burch | The New York Times)



How Many Towels Do You Need? (Rose Lounsbury | Becoming Minimalist)

Yes! For me, four of each for our master bath – bath towels, hand towels, and wash rags and for a guest bath, two of each.



A simple and healthy soup: Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup (Paty Katalano | The Kitchn)



Need a quick and easy source for news? Try The Week: 5 things you need to know now. I subscribe to the feed in my Feedly account. It’s a nice quick way to keep up.

What’s your favorite quick-fix news source?



Friday Finds #163

Start the Year with Re-Reads!

Hello friends,

Welcome to another Friday! Is it your favorite day of the week? If not, it has good reason to be – or at least close to it.

What’s not to love about the feeling of another work cycle coming to a close?  A week of (hopefully satisfying) work done, a weekend to come, and the opportunity for a fresh start always looking you in the eye.

My offering to you at the end of this second full week of the year, my fellow teachers, is below. Don’t feel like you have to take in it all, pick a piece of the pie that’s just what you needed for this week whether it’s for your students, or just for you.



Looking for some ensemble music for your students this semester? Check out Lauren’s Ensemble Music Archives. (Lauren Lewandowski | Piano with Lauren)



Get Organized with Piano Repertoire ‘Elements and Outcomes’ sheet. (Rebekah Maxner)



After looking back at the last few years of my reading lists, I’ve realized while I have good intentions of including re-reads in my annual book consumption, it just wasn’t happening. So, this year I determined that the first books I read of the year will be re-reads. Smart, right?! This was a small but perfect habit change. Use what you have first. What was my first choice to re-read?

Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility (Mireille Guiliano). It may be written with the business world working woman as its focus but I found great advice and application as a working woman, period. I love all of her books.

That act drew me to take an inventory of all my books which inspired this post: Books for Piano Teachers Including My Top 3 Recommendations (Amy Chaplin | Piano Pantry)



This would have been a good one to share a few weeks ago but oh, well. It’s still satisfying to look at. Best of 2019: Top 50 Photographs from Around the World. (My Modern Met)



Recognize that you are not the same person you were ten years ago. Your interests, tastes, and life circumstances have changed. Maybe it’s time for you to declutter your attachment to the title “Quilter” because that’s no longer who you are. Decide you’ll keep only those things that support who you are today.

Declutter Your Fantasy Self (Karen Trefzger | No Side Bar)



Looking to do some tidying this month? I purchased these bags to store our outdoor table’s chair cushions in and they were absolutely perfect. Be aware there are two sizes! Lifewit Clothes Storage Bag.




Add a little fun to your calendar. Sync your calendar with the Solar System (The New York Times)



Yep. Fed Up With Fundraisers on Facebook? You’re Not Alone (Tovia Smith | NPR)



The High Cost of Having a Baby in America: The average delivery now costs more than $4,500—even with insurance. (Olga Khazan | The Atlantic)



An easy way to spice up a simple hot dog. Sonoran Hot Dog (Michelle Tam | Nom Nom Paleo).

(Personally I found the wrapping of bacon not to work well because the inside of the bacon doesn’t brown nicely nor does it like to stay “wrapped” while cooking – even when I used toothpicks – so I pulled it off, cooked separately and simply placed one slice of bacon on each hot dog. Much easier.)


Please note that there may be links to Amazon in this post. Piano Pantry is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Simply put, being an associate allows me to make a small percentage from Amazon on items to which I link at no extra cost to you.


Books for Piano Teachers

Including My Top 3 Recommendations

Hey there!

I just wanted to mention something you may or may not know about.

Did you know there was a whole page devoted to books for piano teachers on Piano Pantry?

Check it out!

The page has been published for a couple of years but I'm not sure if I ever actually told you about it! Whoops!

You may have come across it, but if not, now you know! 🙂

It includes more than 30 books that can help you in your career as an independent music teacher.

I've divided them into seven categories to make your browsing easier:

  • Music Education and Teaching Inspiration
  • Music Business / Entrepreneurship for Independent Music Teachers
  • Elementary-Intermediate Piano Pedagogy & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Intermediate-Advanced Piano Technique & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Music Learning Theory (Introductions)
  • Music Learning Theory (In-Depth)
  • Faith and the Arts


Top Recommendations

In this post, besides letting you know about the Books for Piano Teachers page, I thought I would share more details on the three books I love the most.

Basically, if you were to only read three books on music teaching in your lifetime, I would recommend these three.

Read them. You won't regret it!

If you would like to read more details on each of these top books, read on!

If you just want to jump right to the page with 30 books, click here.

For the three books I'm highlighting in this post, I've included three things.

1. The book descriptions directly from Amazon. (Yes, I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will earn a small percentage if you purchase through the link but it won't cost you any more.)

2.  A statement on why I love the book.

3.  A listing of 6-7 of my favorite quotes/excerpts that I feel best define the content of the book.


#1 Intelligent Music Teaching

Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction by Robert Duke

Description: In this collection of insightful essays, the author describes fundamental principles of human learning in the context of teaching music. Written in an engaging, conversational style, the individual essays outline the elements of intelligent, creative teaching. Duke effectively explains how teachers can meet the needs of individual students from a wide range of abilities by understanding more deeply how people learn. Teachers and interested parents alike will benefit from this informative and highly readable book.

Why I love it: The first sentence to the preface of this book says it all. "This collection of essays is not about how to each. It's about how to think about teaching and learning."

Favorite Quotes:

Teaching is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning. People can learn without being deliberately taught and a teacher can inform, instruct, explain, and demonstrate in the presence of students without the students' learning what the teacher intends to teach. (Page 10)

Learning to play or sing any scale, any exercise or any piece is never the real goal of music instruction...The real goal... is for students to become superb musicians, doing all of the things that superb musicians do, irrespective of what is being played or sung at the moment... The far-reaching goal remains the same from the first day of instruction to the time when the student reaches the highest levels of artistic musicianship. In this sense, the goals of the lesson plan never change, regardless of the skills or experience level of the students you're teaching. Only the contexts in which the goals are taught (i.e. the activities, the music) change over time. (Page 29)

Students need to learn to study effectively, to practice effectively, to think effectively. So, when and where will they learn that? In class, with us. Not by our telling them what to do when they're alone in a practice room or in a carrel in the library, but by our leading them through the very activities that we expect them to do on their own in our absence. (Page 61)

...the decisions of what to teach when are central to artistic teaching. (Page 103)

In order to become independent thinkers and doers, learners must eventually use information and skills in situations in which they have had little or no prior experience. (Page 141)

All of this suggests a redefinition of what it means to learn something. Much of what we learn as part of formal education is presented to us in very limited contexts, and we have few opportunities to practice applying what we know and can do in contexts beyond those in which the knowledge and skills are initially taught. But if the goal of educaton is that students learn to use knowledge and skills effectively in the future, even in unfamiliar circumstances, then transfer must be definited as the goal of instruction. The goal is no longer the acqusition of knowledge and skills but the application of knowledge and skills in situations that have not been taught explicitly. For the developing musician, the goal is no longer to play a given piece beautifully, but to play beautifully (period). (Page 157)


#2 The Ways Children Learn Music

The Ways Children Learn Music: An Introduction and Practical Guide to Music Learning Theory by Eric Bluestine

Description (from GIA):  The perfect introduction to Edwin E. Gordon's music learning theory!

With clear and compelling language, Eric Bluestine sheds light on the most vexing issues in music education—all the while drawing from the contributions of perhaps the most influential thinker in the field today, Edwin E. Gordon. In the process, Bluestine unlocks the mystery that frees a child’s mind to think on its own musical terms.

Why I love this book: Please don't let the fact that it's an "introduction to Music Learning Theory" deter you in any way! Even if you weren't necessarily looking to learn more about MLT, music teachers of every instrument and philosophy will get great value from and depth of understanding on how to teach music from this book.

In all my years of music education, this is the first book I read that really addressed how to teach "music." That is, how to understand the sound that music is and not just the symbols (a.k.a. music "notation") that we often define as teaching music.

Favorite Quotes:

I hold the elegantly simple belief that learning to understand music is its own reward. (Page xiv)

One of the basic tenets of Music Learning Theory is that children do not audiate intervals; they audiate functional tonal patterns made of intervals...In short, we don't audiate pitches, or even intervals. We audiate structured pitches, pitches that we organize into functional patterns that relate to a tonal center. (Page 42)

Music education could be separated into four topics. They are 1) the musical and pedagogical principles that give rise to Music Learning Theory "irrefutable truths about music and music education"; 2) Music Learning Theory itself; 3) learning methods; and 4) classroom teaching (techniques, musical examples, and materials).  Now, think about these in a pyramid shape with #1 as the larger foundation and #4 as the top of the pyramid. (Page 60)

The nature of Music Learning Theory is that one cannot use it directly. To use it, a music teacher must design a method based on it, and then use techniques, materials, and musical examples to get the method off the ground. (Page 75)

A child is not a miniature adult! (Page 88)

If we are to help our students to become independent musicians and musical thinkders - our most important task - then we must encourage them to generalize what they hear. (Page 149)


#3 Coffee with Ray

Coffee with Ray: A Simple Story with a Life Changing Message for Teachers and Parents by Nick Ambrosino

Description: Through the eyes of a simple piano teacher, learn the strategies to remove any self-made learning obstacles so that you can achieve all you put your mind too.

After ten years of teaching piano, Matt had become completely disillusioned with his career choice. Teaching was increasingly more frustrating, students were more difficult to motivate and coping with the stress had become much more challenging. He was on the verge of quitting until he decided to have a cup of coffee at a café suggested by his GPS. That’s where he met Ray and that’s when everything started to change.

An engaging, funny and thought-provoking parable, written as creative non-fiction, Coffee With Ray will introduce readers to revolutionary ways of communicating that will help make students become more accountable and teachers more skilled at facilitating learning.

Why I love the book: I especially love that this book is an easy read. It's simply a direct peek into the life of one teacher and is a beautiful example of how we can learn to be better at our profession by learning from others not in our profession. This would be a great summer read. It feels casual but is still directed toward being a better teacher.

Favorite Quotes:

Teachers tend to think about teaching a subject. When you redefine yourself as a facilitator, you become responsible for facilitating your student through the learning of how to teach himself. (Page 61)

Instead of telling my students what they should do, I offered suggestions and asked them to take responsibility for choosing goals that felt best for them. (Page 102)

I asked her what she had accomplished this week that she felt proud of (I found that to be a better and more effective way of starting the lesson than asking them if they had practiced.) (Page 102)

[The last four excerpts are focused on using "but" vs. "and".]

I like the way you made contact with that pitch, Mike, and now you’re ready to turn your back foot. (Page 74)

The point is that if you validate someone’s performance, as Dominic did, and then you use the word ‘but’ to create a change in the performance, the student never remembers what came before the ‘but.’ “If, however, you use the word ‘and’ as the invitation for change after the validation, the student feels he has earned the right to go onto the next part of his training and he will both remember the validation AND create the change. (Page 75)

You feel as though there is always something to fix. While that may be true, the word ‘but’ creates a feeling of ‘less than.’ It creates a closed condition for learning as well as an ‘undesirable’ feeling. The word ‘and,’ however, creates a feeling of greatness, of progress. It creates an opening for learning and that is a much more desirable feeling. (Page 76)

Everything you have ever accomplished was at one time outside of your comfort zone. Yet, by labeling it as hard you put a question mark on your ability to learn or accomplish it. By labeling it as new you never question your ability but, instead, actually acknowledge that you are capable. (Page 78)


Those are my three favorite books! Do you have any favorites? Share them in the comments!





My Reading Lists

If you would like to check out some of my posts on books I've read in previous years, check out these posts.

Recommended Reads: My 2016 Reading List
Recommended Reads: My 2017 Reading List

As you can see, I haven't kept up very well with publishing my annual reading list. However, I do include books I'm currently reading in my monthly "secret letter" which goes out at the end of every month.

If you would like to be on my mailing list so you can receive that monthly communication, you can sign up here.

Friday Finds #162

A Slow Start

How have you fared on your first week back to teaching? Personally, I’ve been tired all week (mostly from finally slowing down after a busy December), but it was still a good start.

I decided to give myself this week to as much rest as I could every morning and evening and it’s been divine. A couple of afternoons you may have even caught me in a long nap before afternoon students arrived. Next week I’ll kick in even more of my routine but for now, it felt good to start the year out slowly.



Two weeks ago I shared this article on Friday Finds #160, but it felt completely relevant to the idea of starting the year out with rest.

Starting the New Year with Rest (Amanda Beck | Morning by Morning)



Having a chalkboard to write a message to my students and other things for my studio is a GREAT idea (check out Joy Morin’s). However, because I have terrible handwriting and hate to write, it’s never been a good choice for me.

I finally decided to buy one of these cute letter boards instead.

This one from Amazon includes white and gold lettering as well as some fun cursive words, months, and days. Eventually, I’ll either end up with more than one of these or get a bigger one in addition to this one but it’s a good start!



The real scam of ‘influencer.’ (Seth Godin)


My mom and I went and watched It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood finally over Christmas break. It was a nice mother-daughter Sunday afternoon out.

Tom Hanks, of course, was brilliant as always. Here are some delightful stories about the goodness of the man who played Mr. Rogers.



Would you like to get a full look into what a 100% MLT (Music Learning Theory)-based piano lesson looks like? Here is a demonstration from this past year’s GIML Conference.



“I Can’t Wait to Practice!”: How Tonara is Revolutionizing the Practice World (Jennifer Foxx | Music Educator Resources)



The third season of Anne with an E is finally available on Netflix! Unfortunately, after this season, Netflix will no longer air the program. How sad!

Why the 1980s Anne of Green Gables is such a hard act to follow (Joanna Robinson | Vanity Fair)

Personally, I think the joint product of Anne with an E by CBN (Canadian Broadcasting Network) and Netflix is pretty great considering it was such a hard act to follow. Even my husband enjoys it!



Are you still working on your “to read” list for 2020? Check out a few of these recommendation lists:

Eye-Opening Books (The Lazy Genius)

The Best Books to Read at Every Age, from 1 to 100 (Book World Staff | The Washington Post)

Unputdownable: 17 Books I Read in 24 Hours or Less (because they were just that good) (Anne Bogel | The Modern Mrs. Darcy)

The 37 Best Business Books I’ve Ever Read (Michael Hyatt)



Green Giant Cauliflower Gnocchi

This freezer gnocchi are amazing! I simply followed the package instructions, then at the end, added a few tablespoons of pesto to the skillet. Serve alongside any protein! (We did smoked pork chops.)




What else can you make this week that’s simple? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Skillet Lemon Dill Chicken Thighs (Chungah Ree | Damn Delicious)

Jiffy Corn Casserole (Meghan Splawn | The Kitchn)



Please note that there may be links to Amazon in this post. Piano Pantry is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Simply put, being an associate allows me to make a small percentage from Amazon on items to which I link at no extra cost to you.